By The Associated Press
A look at Thursday’s NFL preseason matchups:
TOM OR JIMMY
This is one unusual summer for the New England Patriots, who have a quarterback quandary. How much should their four-time Super Bowl winner, Tom Brady, be on the field in preseason before he sits out the opening four games of the schedule while suspended? And how much action should his stand-in, Jimmy Garoppolo, get to prepare him to start those four matches that count?
The Patriots entertain New Orleans on Thursday night after scrimmaging with the Saints this week.
Many people expect the Jaguars to be much improved this season. One thing they must do to contend will be making quicker starts in games, beginning at the New York Jets.
Jacksonville was among the NFL’s worst first-quarter teams in 2015 with only 35 points.
“You want to get in a groove and get moving,” QB Blake Bortles said. “It would be nice to not have to deal with a third down on the first drive. … It’s not a good feeling to go out there for the first possession and everybody’s amped up and ready and you go three-and-out, and then you go and repeat and go three-and-out again.”
When the defending champion Broncos visit the Bears, they won’t have Super Bowl MVP Von Miller in the lineup. The star linebacker says he is physically ready to play, but his mental conditioning is not where it needs to be after some intense contract negotiations.
“Whenever you take a break from football it’s a process to get back to the game speed that I want to play at,” he said. “I’m right there, I’m ready to go, but the Von I know I can be and I want to be, I’m not there yet. A week or two I should be all right.”
THE OTHER SUPER BOWL TEAM
Carolina, which lost to Denver for the NFL title, gets going at Baltimore. The Panthers get to see top receiver Kelvin Benjamin back in action after he missed the entire 2015 season with a torn knee ligament.
Benjamin will get limited work, but that still is progress.
“It’s about introducing him back into the game first and foremost, but in the right situation and circumstances,” coach Ron Rivera says.
As a rookie, Benjamin was outstanding in 2014 with 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine TDs.
New Eagles coach Doug Pederson, a former quarterback and offensive coordinator, will be calling the plays for his three QBs as the Eagles host Tampa Bay.
“One, offensively from a speed standpoint of calling the plays directly to the quarterback from myself. That is probably the biggest issue,” he says. “And then it just keeps you so in tune to the game. You’re focused not only offensively, but when the defense is back out there you are looking at how your players are playing. You’re kind of that quarterback on the sideline. Being in that position for so many years has led me to be in this position on game day.”
Pederson will script opening plays for all the quarterbacks.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows exactly what the opening exhibition game, vs. Washington, is all about.
“It’s such an awesome opportunity to see some of the guys going for it,” he says. “They’ve had the OTAs, they had minicamp, and now training camp sessions, and then this is the next step. It’s always one, especially for the rookies, that’s kind of a really cool night and really devoted toward them as they’re getting their NFL careers started.
“So an important one for all of us, especially for them. We really devote that night to them and see what they can and can’t do.”